Mayor Jacob Frey believes Minneapolis must be more affordable for renters and homeowners. Its police should carry with them a list of immigrant rights written in multiple languages. Its leaders should raise their voices on national and global issues like gun control, the opioid crisis and climate change.
Standing in a north Minneapolis theater Thursday morning, Frey laid out the details of his far-reaching vision for the city and its leaders in his first State of the City address. In an hourlong speech, the 36-year-old mayor praised the city’s parks and theaters, tactfully wove in every City Council member by name and quoted a 1945 speech from then-Mayor Hubert Humphrey.
He repeated his hope for the city to invest $50 million in affordable housing this year, called himself “pro-business” and “pro-growth” and promised to make Minneapolis more inclusive for its rising and increasingly diverse population.
“We are young, scrappy and hungry,” said Frey, quoting the Broadway play “Hamilton” as he delivered his address at Lundstrum Performing Arts on the North Side.
Frey has campaigned and governed on promises on housing affordability, easing tensions between police and community members and addressing the unequal distribution of wealth and poverty in the city. His speech Thursday reiterated many of these promises, and provided more details for how he plans to realize them.
In a word, Frey told the crowd, the state of the city is “poised.”
“There will be setbacks, but I’m asking you to hang in with me on those days,” said Frey. “I promise that if we stand united, if you keep working alongside me, then together we will make the most of the moments ahead. We haven’t arrived yet, but we are poised in every sense of the word to do so.”
New policy for police
Among Frey’s new policy announcements was an order for Minneapolis police to begin carrying placards in their squad cars that detail, in English and Spanish, the legal rights of immigrants when they are dealing with federal authorities.
New Americans have rights, and undocumented immigrants should be aware of what they are with clarity, the mayor said. “We will not let the lack of compassion demonstrated at the highest levels of our government prevent us from doing the right thing by our immigrant community right here in Minneapolis.”
In his effort to reform police, Frey spent several evenings of his first few months in office listening to people at public forums, and faced criticism from some for reports that he wanted to add 100 police officers. Frey did not give numbers Thursday, but he made it clear he thinks the city needs more officers to effectively police the city, though he said this doesn’t mean adding more patrols “to a community that doesn’t want patrolling.”
Mentioning advice from Don Damond, the husband of Justine Ruszczyk Damond — the unarmed woman shot and killed by a Minneapolis officer last summer — Frey stressed the importance of officer wellness and the city’s role in giving them enough time to “recalibrate” between 911 calls.
With Chief Medaria Arradondo listening in the audience, Frey touted the city’s efforts to add teeth to the police body camera policy and his plan to break up the structure of the police union in collective bargaining.
“We will move to separate out lieutenants and sergeants, creating two separate bargaining units,” he said to applause. “That’s good government and that’s good for accountability and we’re making that move.”
Frey also laid out, for the first time in detail, an initiative to address homelessness among Minneapolis’ young people.
According to the mayor, about 8 percent of Minneapolis public elementary school students experience homelessness. Frey said the city and Minneapolis Public Housing Authority will provide housing vouchers for families of those students. The plan will support up to 320 families and 648 students, according to a draft of it provided by Frey’s staff.
Frey also came out officially in favor of a portion of the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan that would rezone neighborhoods to allow for more multiunit housing, such as fourplexes and four- or six-story buildings. The plan has been controversial since details were revealed earlier this year, and Frey had previously hesitated to endorse it.
“Do I believe in the notion that we should change our zoning code to allow for a greater breadth of housing options?” the mayor asked rhetorically. “You’re damn right I do.”
Frey also acknowledged that he will need to work cooperatively with the City Council to accomplish his ambitious goals. Nodding to his inexperience and that of many newly elected City Council members, Frey hailed the relative youth of City Hall leaders as an asset.
“We have exactly the right blend of experience, the right diversity of background and importantly an appreciation for the urgency of now,” said the mayor.